Magnesium and it’s Role in Health

Health on March 14th, 2017 No Comments

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in energy production, DNA synthesis and metabolism of glucose in the body. It is mainly found in such foods as dark leafy greens (spinach/broccoli), nuts (almonds, cashew, peanuts, etc.), avocados, brown rice and black beans.  Unfortunately, a large number of Americans have insufficient levels of magnesium in their diet (up to 1/3) with as many as 15% of the population having hypomagnesemia (clinical magnesium deficiency).  While short-term magnesium deficiency in the diet can result in minimal symptoms or long term problems, if a person is consistently having inadequate magnesium in their diet it can result in impaired health and problems with the muscular, digestive or nervous systems.

According to various studies, having higher magnesium levels in your diet is associated with decreased risk of sudden cardiac death, cardiovascular and heart disease as well as having a correlation with a reduction in risk of stroke.  Along with improving heart health, having a diet higher in magnesium has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes by 15-23% and improving DMII symptoms and controlling blood glucose levels.  Next, magnesium has also been found to help decrease the risk and help symptoms of migraine headaches.  Multiple studies have shown that intaking 600 mg of magnesium per day can play a role in preventing migraines enough that the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society made mention that it is probably effective for migraine prevention. 

While it is just one mineral, it is important to be proactive with your health and ensure you have a diet that can best minimize your risk of issues.  Being active and exercising is imperative in preventing diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease, but they can only go so far if your body isn’t provided the necessary materials to maintain a healthy heart and functioning muscles.

                For more information, visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services website at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/.

Other sources used:

Costello RB et al. Perspective: the case for an evidence-based reference interval for serum magnesium: the time has come. Advances in Nutrition. 2016 Nov 15; 7(6):977-93.

Verma H and Garg R. Effect of magnesium supplementation on type 2 diabetes associated cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2017 February 2.

Veronese N et al. Effect of magnesium supplementation on glucose metabolism in people with or at risk of diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Dec; 70(12):1354-59.

Zhang X et al. Effects of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials. Hypertension. 2016 Aug; 68(2):324-33.


Exercise Does a Body Good

Health on February 3rd, 2017 No Comments

It’s common knowledge that regular physical activity is good for you and can help with all sorts of bodily problems both physical and mental, but did you know that almost every facet of the body benefits from getting regular exercise?  Studies have shown that regular bouts of activity (at least 5-6 hours a week at the equivalent effort of mowing your lawn) can help decrease fat deposits around the waist as along with lowering overall fat (triglyceride) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood as well as improving the good (HDL). Regular activity also helps improve blood sugar (glucose) levels and improves the body’s resistance to insulin which plays a pivotal role in diabetes prevention and management.  Another benefit to exercise is that it lowers blood pressure, improves immune system function as well as overall heart health and decreases global inflammation in the body which is directly connected to many chronic diseases.

It’s not only the physical body that exercise helps; it also helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression and aids in slowing the aging process and can help minimize damage done by such factors as smoking or chronic diseases like heart disease, heart failure and strokes. Another interesting connection is that through multiple body reactions seen here that occur during regular exercise (keeping free radicals from oxidizing and developing tumors), the rates of cancer is dropped by 46% just by keeping active.


Exercise Helps Prevent Cancer and Reduce Risk of Death

Health on January 30th, 2017 No Comments

Cancer can be a life-threatening disease that can develop in almost any part of the body.  According to the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, roughly 1.3 million Americans were diagnosed with some variety of cancer in 2016 and over 410,000 people lost their lives to the disease.  While survival rates are improving for most forms of cancer, it revolves around catching the spread early enough and often requires harsh medications (such as chemotherapy) or surgery to remove the cancerous tumors before they spread any further. 

Fortunately, it is also a hot topic for research and study across the world and a recent study of over 100 published research studies in medical journals shows that there are ways to not only improve survival rate when diagnosed with cancer, but also ways to decrease the rate of cancer developing in the first place.  Studies indicate that regularly performing moderate physical activity (roughly the same effort as mowing the lawn) for 1 hour a day can reduce the risk of colon cancer in men 30-40% and breast cancer in women 20-30% as well as a 26-40% reduced risk of death for women currently with breast cancer. 

Overall throughout the studies it was shown that cancer patients who exercised at this moderate level of intensity at least 3-5 hours a week had reduced their risk of death from cancer, meaning that regular exercise is beneficial for both preventing cancer from developing and reducing mortality rates even if it has already been diagnosed. 


Are You Insane?

Health on January 26th, 2017 No Comments

Albert Einstein stated it best when he defined insanity as repeating the same mistake and expecting a different outcome.

Are you a chronic dieter?  How many different weight loss strategies, exercise gadgets, and special supplements have you tried?  After spending countless amounts of money and energy on fruitless strategies it should become obvious that there are no quick fixes for weight loss. In fact, if you continue to search for the miracle cure to weight loss, hoping to avoid the harder, but more permanent solution of lifestyle alteration, then you may indeed be considered insane – not to mention frustrated and broke.

It is time to ignore the false hopes and flashy marketing schemes of weight loss companies, supplement manufacturers, and exercise gadget designers.  Medical research continually points to the only solution for permanent weight loss change as portion control and exercise. This answer can be difficult to hear as it takes hard work, and discipline. Unfortunately, all of the choices are simply – insane.

Even if there was a magical pill for weight loss, it would still not eliminate your body’s need for exercise.  Exercise has volumes of research showing that it provides benefit for almost every possible disease and condition known to man. Researchers have stated that if you could put all of the positive effects of exercise into a pill, it would be considered mandatory medicine for every person in the United States. Unfortunately, these researchers also state that we are far away from the design of such a medication. It is exceptionally unlikely that it will ever occur in our lifetimes.

It is time to put your head down and adopt the hard work strategy of portion control and exercise. This is the miracle cure that you've been searching for.  This strategy will help you to finally achieve your weight loss goals.


Who Cares What You Eat?

Health on January 26th, 2017 No Comments

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the types of nutrients (carbohydrate/fat/protein) that you eat that leads to weight gain. It is simply the quantity. Carbohydrates won’t make you any fatter than if you ate the same amount of calories in protein or fat.  In fact, fat won’t even make you fat if you consume fewer calories than you expend. You may be surprised to know that all types of foods (carbohydrate/fat/protein) are broken down to the same basic compound for energy production. All nutrient roads lead to ATP (your body's gasoline) regardless of the form in which they start.

Everyone knows that food provides energy.  A food’s energy is measured in calories.  A calorie is simply a way to quantify how much energy is present in a food.  The problem is that your body cannot use food for energy in its primary state.  In other words, you cannot simply press a hamburger up against your thigh and expect it to give your leg energy.  Even more specifically, your body cannot directly utilize fat, carbohydrate, or protein as a source of energy.  All these nutrients need to be broken down into an energy form that the body can utilize.

The body’s process of converting food into an energy source is similar to oil being converted into gasoline.  Crude oil must be processed in a factory and turned into gasoline before it will be of any use to you and your vehicle.  You could try skipping the processing step and simply put crude oil directly in your gas tank. But, as you know, this will not provide you with any utilizable fuel source.  Your car will not run.  Gasoline is what you need.

So how does your body take nutrients such as carbohydrate, protein, and fat and convert it into “gasoline” for your cells? Inside every cell in your body there is a process that takes place referred to as the Krebs cycle.  The Krebs cycle is simply the conversion of nutrients into a universal energy form called ATP.  ATP is the energy that your body utilizes to perform tasks. This is the end result of carbohydrate/fat/protein digestion.  It does not matter what nutrients the body starts with, regarding food. If food is needed for energy, it will be converted into ATP.

To simplify your understanding, imagine a hamburger. A hamburger has carbohydrate in the form of the bun, protein in the form of meat, and fat in the form of meat and mayonnaise. First, the hamburger will be digested into its component parts – fat/carbohydrate/protein in the stomach. These nutrients will then be absorbed by the body in the intestines. The intestines will then transfer the nutrients to the bloodstream.  The bloodstream will then carry the nutrients to the individual cells.  Unfortunately, in their forms as fat carbohydrate and protein, these nutrients are not utilizable by the cell for energy.  They will need to take a trip through the Krebs cycle. This will convert the nutrients into energy or ATP It matters not how they started, all types of foods end their journey as ATP.

With this in mind, you can see that it's not one particular type of food would makes you fat.  Since all nutrients end up as the same end product, you can see that it is much more important to be mindful of the amount of food you consume as opposed to the type.


Don’t Die Early

Health on January 26th, 2017 No Comments

Death is an inevitable reality for human beings (unless scientists do something amazing).  Most of us have a healthy respect for death and fear a premature meeting.  Many people, however, take risks with their health despite its relationship with death.  They feel that life is too short to avoid behaviors and activities that they enjoy. They feel that exercise is too difficult and unpleasant. Others feel that giving up their favorite foods is too stifling.  While these may be true statements, the consequences of these statements are often not truly weighed.

Many people think that engaging in detrimental behaviors will simply lead to premature death.  They figure that giving up a couple years of life is worth the attainment of immediate pleasures.  They would rather die a few years early in order to avoid the discomfort of exercise.  Unfortunately, people grossly underestimate the penalties for their actions.

Consider these facts:

  • 70 to 80% of all illness is lifestyle related.
  • Physical inactivity is the number one leading cause of death.
  • People that engage in healthy behaviors tend to live 14 years longer than those that do not.
  • Research shows that an overweight 80-year-old that exercises is more likely to live longer than a thin 60 year-old that does not exercise.

Many people grossly underestimate the amount of life they are giving up. They may think that their unhealthy behaviors are going to cost them a couple years of life but in reality it may be as much as 20 years. Do those guilty pleasures seem less attractive?

Another factor is that it's not just the quantity of life that is reduced but the quality.  Many people who engage in unhealthy behaviors spend their last decade, or more, battling with terrible health afflictions. They don't simply die in their sleep a couple years early. Instead, they may be forced to suffer a battle with a debilitating disease. Many become condemned to wheelchairs following severe strokes, or experience shortness of breath with even simple acts such as getting out of bed.  Some people are no longer able to perform any of the activities that they use to enjoy.  Routine behaviors often start to cause extreme stress and discomfort.

While engaging in healthy lifestyle choices is not easy, these choices do help to ensure that you can enjoy your life.  Quality of life makes life worth living.

Instead of gambling on the future, doesn't it make more sense to assume some reasonable changes to your lifestyle?  Is an investment of one hour a day, three days a week of exercise really that much?  Is eating out every day really providing you with that much pleasure? Wouldn’t reducing your eating out experiences to once a week turn it into a more special occasion?  With diet, moderation is the key.  You can still enjoy all the things you like.  You must simply indulge in a more reasonable manner.

Don't trade your quality and length of life away so quickly.  Truly consider what is at stake.  Utilize this information to help motivate you to a healthier lifestyle.

 


Take Control of Osteoporosis

Health on January 25th, 2017 No Comments

Osteoporosis is a condition in which a person’s bone density and strength are decreased which can lead to an increased risk of fracturing or breaking bones. A person can be at increased risk for developing osteoporosis or it’s prelude osteopenia as they age, take certain medications (such as steroids, anti-depressants, anti-seizure or ulcer prescriptions) or having an improper diet.  Studies show that roughly 10 million people in the United States have osteoporosis with 10% of women over the age of 60 being affected.  The good news is that medication is not the only solution to reduce or reverse the condition; studies show that regular physical activity, including resistance training, agility training and stretching can improve bone density and reduce risks for fracturing bones.  Exercises such as weight lifting, regular walking, stairs, balance and impact activities along with body weight resistance training are just some of the techniques that can be used not only to slow down, but also to reverse bone loss, increase bone density and improve balance to prevent falls.  In addition, this training also was shown to reduce the risk of falls and help maintain normal bone health across all age and gender groups.


Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome

Health on November 28th, 2016 No Comments

Piriformis Syndrome and Sciatica can be very painful conditions often described as a literal pain in the butt. Additionally, the pain can occur in the hip, down the back of the leg to the side of the foot and anywhere in between. These two conditions are similar in that they can be caused by compressing (irritation of) the sciatic nerve and its out-branching nerves, which can be caused by the piriformis muscle being impaired (going into a spasm, being too tight or overcompensating for other hip and low back muscles becoming weakened). 1

This can be due to something as simple as a muscle spasm or trauma that can occur from excessive sitting in an improper manner, sitting on a surface that is too hard or through overuse such as walking/running more than our body is used to or repetitive lifting/carrying etc. 2 It can also occur over time with improper walking/running body mechanics, impaired circulation (heart or blood pressure problems), arthritic conditions or through direct trauma such as a fall or car accident. 2 & 3

While sciatic pain can be painful enough to warrant emergency room visits, fortunately there are solutions to addressing the pain. There is ample evidence to suggest that physical therapy can benefit most people with sciatica type pain through a combination of soft tissue therapy, exercise, modalities and modification of activity and body mechanics, treatment can often resolve issues and provide education on how to lower the likelihood of a relapse in pain. 3, 4, 5 & 6 While physical therapy treats all patients on a case to case basis by finding what is causing pain for each person, generally it will involve relaxing overstrained muscles, strengthening muscles that aren’t doing enough to stabilize the joints, improving posture/walking mechanics and providing education as to how to improve symptoms as quickly as possible in hopes of resolving pain and ensuring it does not return.  If you are suffering from pain in your back, hip or down your leg, talk to your physician about physical therapy as soon as possible as the faster you seek help once your pain starts, the better the chance of speedy recovery.

 

References:
 

1.       Lori AB, McClain RL, Coleman MK, and Thomas PP. Diagnosis and management of piriformis syndrome: an osteopathic approach. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.November 2008; 108: 657-64.

2.       Piriformis Syndrome. Retrieved from Physiopedia on November 11, 2016 at http://www.physio-pedia.com/Piriformis_Syndrome.

3.       Tonley JC, Yun SM, Kochevar RJ, Dye, JA, Farrokhi S and Powers CM. Treatment of an individual with piriformis syndrome focusing on hip muscle strengthening and movement reeducation: a case report. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.Feb 2010; 40(2): 103-111.

4.       Fishman LM, Dombi GW, Michaelsen C, Ringel S, Rozbruch J, Rosner B and Weber C. Piriformis syndrome: diagnosis, treatment, and outcome—a 10-year study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2002 March;83(3): 295-301.

5.       Fishman LM, Anderson C and Rosner B. Botox and physical therapy in the treatment of piriformis syndrome. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  2002 December;81(12): 936-42.

6.       Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Kahn J, Wellman R, Cook AJ, Johnson E, Erro J, Delaney K and Deyo RA. A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011 July 5;155(1):1-9.


Pharmaceuticals and Duct Tape

Health on November 28th, 2016 No Comments

Many pharmaceuticals are similar to duct tape.  They act as a great temporary fix but are not a solution to the real problem.  If you took your vehicle with a leaky water hose to a mechanic to be repaired, what would you think of a mechanic that simply wrapped duct tape around the leaky hose and told you to come back every two to three weeks for new duct tape?

My guess is that you'd be upset and offended that someone would offer such a poor solution to a fixable problem.  You would wonder why someone would not take the time to properly repair a valuable commodity, such as your automobile, properly.  The fact is this is such a ridiculous solution that none of us will likely ever encounter this situation with our vehicles.

Oddly enough, you will almost certainly encounter this exact situation in the treatment of your most viable asset – your own body.  Taking pharmaceuticals for problems such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and innumerable other conditions is essentially the same as treating your body with duct tape. The proper solution is to make lifestyle choices that will treat the root of your problem.  It is time to change your diet and begin exercising.  This is the solution.

Pharmaceuticals are designed to treat symptoms not provide solutions.  This is a basic business tactic.  It is poor business to create a solution to a problem.  It is great business to create a situation in which you have a return customer for life.  Pharmaceuticals, most often, will not solve your problems.  They will, however, give you additional problems.  All medications possess side effects.  Some of these are simply worse than others.  In our car analogy, this would be similar to not only using duct tape to fix the water hose but at the same time adding dirt to the gas tank. Problems are only repaired temporarily. Other problems are added in, creating more of a mess. Meanwhile, the root problem, since it's never being addressed, continues to escalate in scale.

Many problems in our society are completely reversible and preventable.  Researchers state that 70 to 80% of all illness in the United States is lifestyle related.  This means that you can eliminate the possibility of 70 to 80% of all the bad health problems that may occur.  This also means that many of the problems you currently have can be eliminated.

Your body is by far your most valuble asset. Do not take your health for granted.  If you would never consider fixing your car with duct tape, why would you treat your body in a similar fashion?


Low Carbohydrate Diets Are A Mistake

Health on November 16th, 2016 No Comments

Which would you prefer, a car with a full gas tank or an empty gas tank? Your answer is most likely a full gas tank. Did you know that your body has a gas tank?  It does.  The fuel that your body stores is carbohydrate.  Carbohydrate is your body’s gasoline. It is the fuel that supplies your body's immediate energy needs.  Most of your daily activities and exercise are fueled by carbohydrate.  With this in mind, it should be obvious that you want to keep your gas tank full so that your body has energy.

 

When you're dieting, however, your gas tank is in jeopardy.  Dieting is a state in which you are eating fewer calories than you're expending.  In this situation, your body mobilizes its carbohydrate stores to make up for the caloric deficit. Carbohydrates, stored in your body, provide the energy that is missing from your diet.  When the carbohydrate stores are raided, it will cause your body weight to plummet on the scale.  This is due to the fact that carbohydrate, when stored, always bonds with water.  Water is a heavy dense compound.  When the carbohydrate molecule is called to provide energy, the water is sheared off and eliminated from the body.  This loss of water weight leads to a false sense of accomplishment on the scale.  You will think that you have lost fat when in reality you have only lost water.  More importantly, you are now left with an empty gas tank.

 

An empty gas tank is a problem for several reasons.  Number one, when your carbohydrate stores have been depleted, your body will be low on energy.  This will leave you feeling tired and uninspired for exercise or other physical activities. 

 

An empty gas tank may also slow your metabolism.  Consider how you drive your car when you're close to running out of gas.  Do you drive your car aggressively?  Do you speed down the freeway and stomp on the gas when approaching the yellow lights?  Probably not; unless you enjoy walking along the roadside carrying gasoline containers.  Instead, you probably drive your car extremely conservatively.  Driving well under the speed limit and gingerly applying the gas only when necessary.  Do you want your body to respond in a similar manner when it's gas tank is empty? Of course not.  We want the body's metabolism to be running at full speed.  We want the body aggressively utilizing energy so that more weight can be lost.

 

The moral of the story is to avoid low carbohydrate diets.  Also, incorporate a free-day concept in your dieting routine.  Free days are days in which you consume whatever food you want, in whatever quantity you want, for the entire day, once a week.  This will help keep your gas tank full and your metabolism high (yes, there is research that supports the free day concept in assisting weight loss). A full gas tank always beats an empty gas tank.